By Tim Leslie.
Hawk One is arguably the most tangible and exciting tribute to the 100th Anniversary of Powered Flight in Canada. I am proud to be the person who originated this idea. Though I expected it to take off; I am surprised to the extent this initiative has snowballed and caught the imagination of many. Ironically, it has not even flown in its colours yet! In the words of Randy Bachman…we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
I am very proud to be one of the pilots selected for this team. I am humbled to be in the company of so many other accomplished aviators. Most significantly; from my perspective as VP of VWoC, I am immensely proud of everyone who has been involved with the evolution of this initiative from crazy idea to reality. It is an incredible team that has evolved around this idea. This is without doubt the most capable and dedicated team I have ever been associated with.
We are not only just recognizing history here; we will also be making it.
On the 20th of September, during Vintage Wings last Open House for the 2008 season, we will be announcing to Canada…actually the world…Vintage Wings is living up to our motto to educate, commemorate, and inspire. If ever there was a time for us to inspire Canadians it is in 2009; and we are leading this charge at VWoC; and not just with Hawk One, but with Victory Flight as well. These two entities will play a major role in recognizing the 100th.
We should all be very proud of our aviation accomplishments.
There are several responsibilities and obligations that come with leading any charge. Vintage Wings and the Hawk One Team must always set the example no matter the challenges – and we all know many challenges lay in store. You cannot take something like this on and not encounter hurdles. But we aren’t doing this because it is easy – we are doing this because it is difficult! We are doing this because in spite of the challenges we know we have the collective horsepower to rise to these challenges and succeed in creating something very special. Life is much more than sitting in traffic.
Every twelve year old kid with stars in their eyes who walks up and asks us a question is a reason we do this – for they are our future. Every Veteran we recognize adds meaning. Every individual we inspire to do something…anything to rise above the ordinary…is why we grind away at the challenge. This whole Hawk One initiative is for anyone we are able to convince they can do anything they want if they are willing to work for it. Canada is a country steeped in potential and we have the opportunity to demonstrate what this potential is all about.
We are the torchbearers.
I am envious of Paul Kissmann and his being selected to do the first flights on the Sabre. There are few things more professionally satisfying than strapping into a new aircraft and taking it flying. Perhaps the only thing more satisfying is landing it safely!
I have watched Paul prepare for these flights. He is a consummate professional who deserves the ride.
Though I expect we are all excited to witness Paul fly…I am convinced there are five people in particular who will be very interested in Paul’s practical observations. I know each of the four other Hawk One pilots is quietly anticipating our chance at the controls. Dan Dempsey, Chris Hadfield, Steve Will, and I will all eventually fly this Sabre in support of the 2009 activities.
There is one other accomplished pilot waiting in the wings for his shot at this Sabre. We are all deeply indebted to Mike Potter and his support of this vision. Few individuals with the resources would have the courage to take something like this on. Mike will fly this Sabre for however long he wishes after Hawk One is done with it. Mike is ultimately the owner and operator – the guy who put his money where my mouth is. I am reminded of Alexander Graham Bell and his support of the Silver Dart.
Hawk One is becoming a reality due to the many folks involved who deal day to day on the premise of personal integrity. Exciting ventures don’t just happen. It is the visionaries and the leaders who stand behind their words and who are willing to take chances who ultimately make the impossible possible. It is Mike who laid his financial resources on the line for this project. It is the rest of us who charged forward and executed the mission with one goal in mind: To adequately celebrate the centenary of Canada’s first powered flight. LCol Steve Will must stand and be recognized as the person who was able to take this to the level it has been taken to. Well done Swill!
This creativity and teamwork is epitomized by the resolution of the ejection seat issues. Many of us consider the utilization of a Tutor ejection seat system as the turning point of this project – an engineering stroke of genius. Once this issue was resolved it became clear that all obstacles in this project, no matter how seemingly difficult have a solution.
I cannot overstate what a major turning point this is for Vintage Wings of Canada.
Up until now we have been flying many incredible aircraft. But each of these aircraft was rebuilt and flown somewhere else first. The Sabre marks a significant and crucial change to our modus operandi. We are now beginning to fly our own creations. A team of VWoC and Department of National Defence (DND) maintainers tore this Sabre completely apart and put it back together with uncompromising attention to quality right at the VWoC hangar. This is a first for us.
VWoC is no longer merely the caretakers of some fine aviation artifacts. Rather, we are becoming the creators and restorers of flying history. As creators we have an obligation to remain sustainable. There are no half measures here.
We are now well along the way toward putting flying machines back into the air where they were intended. The Sabre marks the beginning of an exciting path. Patiently waiting in the wings are a Chipmunk, P40, Swordfish, Lysander, Mark XII Hurricane, and now the Y2K Spitfire.
Like Paul Kissmann, other VWoC pilots are already doing their homework in anticipation of these other first flights. The upcoming flight of our Sabre marks the beginning of an exciting new direction for Vintage Wings. I expect Paul’s test plans will become the template for others to emulate.
I am professionally envious of all those who are slated to embark on their particular first flight on a VWoC aircraft. As much as I wish I were one of these few, my role in all of this is to ensure our symphony remains in harmony. I am very proud to be associated with those virtuosos in our VWoC orchestra who are preparing to take to the skies in something for the first time. We are lucky to have more than our fair share of artists…Paul Kissmann with the Sabre; Dave Hadfield on the P40; John Aitken with the Mark XII Hurricane; and Rob Erdos with the rest of the British Beasts slated to fly out of Gatineau in the very near future. The resumes of each of these aviators read like an adventure novel.
But these pilots are simply the tip of the ice berg…the lucky few who get to play. VWoC is much more than this. We are a sum of many parts, of which all are vital to our continued success. I thank every one of you for the role you have chosen to play at Vintage Wings. Though we will of course always celebrate individual achievement, we are first and foremost a team.
There are four folks who I rely upon to keep it all together at the hangar. I would like to recognize their efforts.
Dave O’Malley has created an incredible brand for us. The epitome of this brand is seen in his quality website: www.vintagewings.ca. Carolyn has diligently pulled together all the aspects of running a hangar and scheduling events and corralling the many volunteers. She is non-stop. Andrej is doing an incredible job with running a maintenance operation that faces far more challenges than any of us are truly fully aware of. We simply “expect” to show up to the hangar and have a serviceable aircraft to fly. We have also come to expect these aircraft to be looking like they just came off the showroom floor – a direct result of Anna’s passion.
Beyond this “fantastic four” are the photographers, historians, tour guides, marshallers, cooks, dishwashers, greeters, librarians, engine cleaners, bakers, and candle stick makers who without their support we would be merely a shell of what we are. We are an organization that exudes quality and depth. This is not by accident. It is by design, perseverance, and unrelenting attention to detail in all aspects of our operations.
Anyone who remembers the agony we went through to get the P40 banner just right will know of which I speak!
VWoC has hired two more AMEs and one structures person in anticipation of all the restoration work required as we move toward getting these six other projects sharing the same air as the Sabre. I hope all of us will make a special effort to welcome Dan, Angela, and Oscar to our team. Ensure you seek them out on the 20th of September if you have not met them already. Finding good AMEs and structural engineers in this environment (where they can pretty much go anywhere and get a job) is a demanding challenge. It was one of the major hurdles Andrej and I had to sort out this summer before we could really move ahead.
But we are now there.
September 20th is a major event for Vintage Wings. It is also a major event for the Air Force. It is a major event for the 100thAnniversary of Powered Flight in Canada.
This significant day will be followed on the heels by the Battle of Britain memorial flypast on the 21st. This flypast is certainly a significant event for two of our most important partners; the Canada Aviation Museum and DND. I am in the process of strengthening and deepening our ties with these two entities. We are also working closely with other organizations like Warplane Heritage in Hamilton. The only way we will survive is to join forces and build upon each others strengths.
This is not a competitive market…it is a cooperative market.
As we collectively watch this Sabre fly off into the wild blue yonder I request each of you revisit what it was that inspired you to become a part of Vintage Wings of Canada in the first place. My challenge to you is to now take that inspiration to the next level. This year we experienced a bit of an operational lull as we cocooned our resources and built up our infrastructure in preparation for the exciting times that lay ahead. We simply had to do this. But now is not the time to rest on our laurels. On the contrary! There are only two directions of evolution – growth or decline – for life is never static. Decline is for those poor souls who decide to live lives of quiet desperation.
As long as I am involved with Vintage Wings we will come down on the side of growth. Expansion can occur in many ways. More aircraft is but only one way. We will always continue to grow in terms of quality and depth. There is no limit to our potential.
Truly exciting times are set to begin within the next two weeks.
Though the intent of Hawk One is to recognize Canada’s 100th… it is the mandate of Vintage Wings of Canada to continue to recognize Canada’s aviation achievements well beyond 2009. Hawk One leads the parade… but it does not end there.
Incredibly, within the next few years I anticipate six more aircraft taking to the skies – not to mention the continued growth of Victory Flight (Vic One – me in the Mustang; Vic Two – Mike in the Spitfire; Vic Three – Rob Erdos in the Hurricane; Vic Four – Paul Kissmann in the Corsair) and the continued operation of eighteen aircraft. This is an ambitious goal. At first blush it all seems rather daunting. But challenge is something VWoC is used to. To put all of this in context; five years ago there was no such thing as Vintage Wings of Canada. Look where we are now…about to watch Hawk One take flight – our seventeenth aircraft in the fleet. Number eighteen is the Y2K Spitfire.
Anything is possible.
But it is only collectively we have the ability to take this entity to new heights.
Please join me in wishing Paul Kissmann blue skies and calm winds for it is Paul who carries our collective hopes with him as he takes to the air.
All of this is very much a kind of magic. Thus I think it appropriate to make it Hawk One’s theme song.
Sierra Hotel…and for the Navy types in the crowd…Bravo Zulu!
Vice President and Chief of Operations
Vintage Wings of Canada